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SIM-08: John Sampson Papers

Identifier: SIM-08

Scope and Contents

The John Sampson Papers contain correspondence, clippings, manuscripts, typescripts, diaries, notebooks, and photographs. As Sampson was active in writing and journalism for nearly eighty years, the collection contains a wealth of material related to those activities. His correspondence, reading notes and memo books also give insight into his interests, views, and personal and professional relationships. Sampson's career in journalism began in 1921 with the self-publication of his paper The Star. He joined Staten Island Leader in 1924, and worked as a journalist until his retirement from the Sun (London) in 1974. He engaged in periodic freelance work as late as 2002. Material related to Sampson's career in journalism is filed in Series 5: Journalism, with the exception of some correspondence and travel material. The collection has good coverage of Sampson's published articles, as he kept clippings of his work. The collection includes little informational press material or preparatory material. Most of what exists is included in the 12 files that are related to Sampson's press trips in Series 6: Travel. Sampson kept business files for most of his employers. Coverage is limited prior to 1938 for employers such as Staten Island Leader, Staten Island Advance and New York American. These files are included in Series 5: Journalism. Sampson also wrote and published fiction. Material related to Sampson's fiction is filed in Series 4: Fiction, with the exception of some correspondence. Sampson submitted fiction for publication as early as the 1930s, and ultimately self-published eight novels and one volume of aphorisms and reflections from 1972-2001. The collection includes typescripts, working materials and notes for most of Sampson's published works. The collection also includes typescripts and other material related to several unpublished works. Sampson also kept business files related to specific works, literary agents, printers and other business associates. Sampson was a dedicated correspondent. The collection includes a large amount of personal correspondence with friends, family, and business connections. Most of Sampson's correspondents were from Europe or the United States, but a few were from other areas. Sampson had lifelong relationships with many of his correspondents, and the files cover a time span of over eighty years. As Sampson often typed his own correspondence and kept copies, the correspondence files document help to document his personal relationships and interests. Sampson’s correspondence is split up among three series. His files were somewhat loosely organized; business, family and personal correspondence files could not be entirely separated in the collection. Business files that are strictly related to fiction writing or journalism are filed in Series 4: Fiction or Series 5: Journalism. The correspondence in Series 2: Correspondence is divided into subseries for family correspondence, personal correspondence, and business correspondence that is unrelated to fiction or journalism. As several of Sampson's personal correspondents were also connected with him through business, these files contain some business items. Sampson also kept copies of his general business correspondence (thank you letters, complaints, and other items) and opinion letters that he wrote to newspapers. Series 2: Correspondence also contains Samspon's general correspondence files, which are a mixture of family, personal and business correspondence filed chronologically. Address books can be found in Series 3: Journals, Notebooks & Address Books. Sampson kept several sets of notebooks, journals and diaries. These can be found in Series 3: Journals, Notebooks & Address Books. Sampson was an avid reader, and the collection includes 46 volumes of his reading notes. Most of these are typed, and each has a table of contents with the names of the works. He also kept small pocket notebooks, which he filled with observations and reflections. There are 79 small notebooks, which run consecutively from around the early 1930s-2004. These small notebooks provide a better glimpse into Sampson’s personality and views than his diaries. Most of Sampson’s diary entries are short and factual, rather than reflective. As most entries also contain short lists of news topics for the day, it appears possible that Sampson used diaries mostly for professional, rather than personal, purposes. His one personal journal (1929-1938, 1995) does not contain many entries, although it does include an entry written on the 75th anniversary of his arrival in the United States. Sampson had a lifelong love of travel, but the collection does not fully document this activity. Sampson kept files related to specific trips made from 1934-1965. These are filed in Series 6: Travel. Of the 18 files, five are related to personal travel. The rest are related to press trips. There are also two travel diaries from trips to England (1928) and Quebec (1944) filed in Series 3: Journals, Notebooks & Address Books. His correspondence also contains references to his travel activities. There are photographs from many of his trips filed in Series 9: Photographs. The majority of the collection’s photographs are filed in Series 9: Photographs. Sampson kept some photographs in his correspondence files, and these have been left with their original files. The collection appears to include Sampson's own photographs, as well as photographs belonging to his parents and his sister. The vast majority of the photographs lack both dates and labels. Sampson often kept photographs from trips together in a labeled envelope or album, but did not label individual photographs.


  • Creation: 1876-2004

Conditions Governing Access

Access to this record group is unrestricted except for a few items that include personal information that is protected by law. Access to photographs (Series 9) and clippings in Series 5 may be restricted until such time as they are fully processed.

Conditions Governing Use

The researcher assumes full responsibility for compliance with laws of copyright. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Coordinator of Archives & Special Collections.

Biographical / Historical

John Sampson, the second child of Thomas Henry (Harry) Sampson and Flora Elizabeth Sampson (née Rose), was born in Liverpool, England, on September 11, 1908. The Sampsons were an old shipping family. John Sampson's uncle, Captain John Sampson, came to New York as a Port Captain for the Houston Line of Liverpool before World War I. At the start of the war, he started a steamboat shipping line, Sampson and Durande (later Oriental Navigation Company), with a French partner. Harry Sampson came to New York to work for the company in November 1919. John Sampson, his mother, and his sister, Hilda, followed in May 1920. Although Captain John Sampson's shipping business was in lower Manhattan, Harry Sampson was captivated by Staten Island and decided to settle the family in New Dorp. John Sampson attended the New Dorp School, PS-9, and then the Great Kills School, PS-8, from which he graduated in January 1923. During this time, in 1921, he started his own newspaper, The Star. The weekly publication was a single double-sided sheet, originally handwritten, and consisted of local news, gossip, general items and editorials. Harry Sampson was diagnosed with tuberculosis shortly after John Sampson began classes at Curtis High School. As it was thought possible that John Sampson had also contracted the disease, both went for treatment in the Catskills. Sampson never returned to formal schooling, but continued to publish The Star until 1924. In August 1924, he was hired as an editor at an established weekly paper, Staten Island Leader. He also took correspondence courses in journalism around this time, as journalism schools at Columbia University and New York University rejected him because he not completed high school. In November 1925, he joined a daily paper, Staten Island Advance, which had been purchased by S.I. Newhouse in 1922. Sampson spent three years at the Staten Island Advance as an assistant city editor. He covered local news, deaths and the Staten Island waterfront. He resigned his position in order to make a trip to England in 1928, and did not to return to the paper. Sampson found his next regular position at the New York American, then the flagship of the Hearst papers. In the autumn of 1929, Sampson took over a position as a ship news reporter, a job he held until the New York American, a morning paper, folded and merged with the Journal, an afternoon paper, in 1937. His work as a ship news reporter allowed for him to meet and interview many famous people, including Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister Ramsey MacDonald and Franklin D. Roosevelt, then governor of New York. Sampson was also twice elected President of the New York Ship News Reporters Association while he worked for the New York American. There were changes in Sampson's family situation during this period. While Sampson’s uncle had been able to retire in 1920 with a sizeable fortune, his father had not been as fortunate. Shipping went into a slump in the years before the Great Depression. Harry Sampson ultimately experienced a relapse of tuberculosis and went to a sanitarium at Liberty, New York. The cost of his care exhausted the family's money by the time he died at home in 1931. After his death, John Sampson became responsible for the family, especially in the support of his mother. As a result of the merger of the New York American and the Journal, Sampson lost his position to the older ship news reporter of the Journal. Sampson stayed on for a few additional months in general assignments, and left the paper in July 1937. He then worked on an assignment basis at the New York office of the London Daily Express until October. He had hoped that this job would lead to an offer to work for the paper in London, but it did not materialize. He then worked at odd assignments for a few months, ultimately taking a position as a temporary reporter for the London Daily Mirror. Sampson started at the Daily Mirror in February 1938, and was offered a position with the paper in London in May. The notes in his journal indicate that he felt that conditions were favorable for a transfer to London in terms of his finances, his family and the political situation in Europe. Sampson took the position, and his mother and sister followed him to London within a few months. The family stayed in London until August 1939. During this time, Sampson worked for the Daily Mirror, the Daily Express, and finally for the Associated Press of Great Britain. He transferred to the Associated Press' New York office and started work there in September 1939. He worked on a special concentrating on English subscribers in both the London and New York offices. In 1943, Sampson left the Associated Press of Great Britain to return to the London Daily Mirror, remaining there until a management change in the early 1950s. After leaving the Daily Mirror, he worked as a freelance correspondent for the Kemsley Newspapers of London, which included the Sunday Times, the Sunday Chronicle, the Empire News of London and other provincial papers. While engaged in this work, Sampson was offered a position as the New York correspondent, or Chief American correspondent, at the London Daily Herald, in 1955. He continued to work in New York, but did travel for some assignments. The sales and advertising revenue of the paper went into decline, however, and the Daily Herald was revamped and re-launched as the Sun in September 1964. The image change was ultimately unsuccessful, and the paper was sold to Rupert Murdoch's News International in 1969. Murdoch wanted to keep Sampson as his American correspondent, but had already established a New York office in the Daily News building. Sampson became part of the staff at that office, but with the idea that he was looking out for the London Sun. Sampson stayed with Murdoch's newspaper organization for about three years, and ultimately retired in May 1974. After his retirement, Sampson was able to further indulge his lifelong love of travel. He remained an avid reader, a love that had inspired him to pursue a career in journalism and to collect a large personal library. He was also able to focus on a new writing career, ultimately self-publishing eight novels and a book of aphorisms and reflections. It appears from his papers that he also meant to write his memoirs, but they were never completed. Except for the periods of his life spent in England, Sampson has always resided on Staten Island. He never married, and lived in New Dorp for several decades, sharing the Steele Avenue house with his sister and her husband until her death in 1992. He was also interested in the community and was involved in the Staten Island Historical Society and the New Dorp Central Civic Association.


30 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



John Sampson was born in Liverpool, England, in 1908, and immigrated to Staten Island with his family in 1920. Sampson pursued a career in journalism. From 1921-1924, he published his own newssheet, The Star. From 1924-1928, Sampson worked for the Staten Island Leader and Staten Island Advance, covering local news and the waterfront. From 1929-1937, he worked a ship news reporter for the New York American. Sampson worked for British newspapers and news organizations from 1938 until his retirement in 1974, largely as an American correspondent. He also wrote fiction, and ultimately self-published eight novels and one volume of aphorisms and reflections from 1972-2001. As Sampson was active in writing and journalism for nearly eighty years, the collection contains a wealth of material related to those activities. His correspondence, reading notes and memo books also give insight into his interests, views, and personal and professional relationships.


Chronology September 11, 1908 Born in Liverpool, England November 1919 Harry Sampson immigrates to Staten Island May 1920 John Sampson immigrates to Staten Island with his mother, Flora, and sister, Hilda 1921 Starts a self-published newspaper, The Star January 1923 Graduates from PS-8 Autumn 1923 Family moves to 31 1st Street, New Dorp, Staten Island August 19, 1924 - November 1925 Works as an editor for the Staten Island Leader November 1925 - c. April 1928 Works as a city editor for the Staten Island Advance April 28 - June 1928 Makes trip to England with his sister Hilda April 1929 Starts work at the New York American May 28, 1931 Harry Sampson dies April 1932 Family moves to 38 Fingerboard Road, Fort Wadsworth, Staten Island July 1937 Leaves the New York American August 2 - October 15, 1937 Works for the London Daily Express February 4 - June 4, 1938 Works for New York office of the London Daily Mirror July 1, 1938 - September 11, 1938 Works for the London office of the London Daily Mirror September 12, 1938 - January 31, 1939 Works as the news editor of the Daily Mirror in Manchester, UK February 1, 1939 Rejoins the staff of the Daily Mirror in London March 1, 1939 Leaves the Daily Mirror March 6, 1939 - April 7, 1939 Works for the London Daily Express April 17, 1939 - August 28, 1939 Works for the Associated Press of Great Britain in London August 29, 1939 Returns to the United States September 18, 1939 Starts work at the Associated Press of Great Britain in New York January 1940 Family moves to 51 Valley Street, Annochar, Staten Island October 1941 Family moves to 51 Behan Court, New Dorp, Staten Island 1942 Hilda Sampson marries Henry Lester Crocheron February 20, 1943 Leaves the Associated Press of Great Britain February 21, 1943 Starts work at the New York office of the London Daily Mirror c. November 1943 Hilda and Lester Crocheron move to 2714 Amboy Road, Staten Island June 1944 John and Flora Sampson move to 2397 Richmond Road, New Dorp, Staten Island June 1947 Flora Sampson dies July 1947 John Sampson moves to 21 Steele Avenue, New Dorp, Staten Island. It appears that Hilda and Lester Crocheron joined him there within a short period of time. Sampson ultimately bought the house and remained there until 2005. December 31, 1952 Leaves the London Daily Mirror June 1953 Starts work as a foreign correspondent for the Kemsley Newspapers July 4, 1955 Starts work as the Chief American Correspondent for the London Daily Herald September 15, 1964 The Daily Herald becomes the Sun 1972 Publishes In Light of Thought: Aphorisms and Reflections May 3, 1974 Retires from the Sun 1984 Publishes Masquerade in Port-Cros: A Romance of the Cote d’Azur 1986 Publishes A Tempest in Venice 1989 Publishes O, Call Back Yesterday 1992 Publishes The Demoniacs of Downing Street Hilda Sampson Crocheron dies 1994 Publishes The Iscariots 1995 Henry Lester Crocheron dies 1997 Publishes Little Miss Magi 1999 Publishes Up at Lighthouse Hill 2001 Publishes Only a Princess 2005 Donates his papers to the College of Staten Island

Immediate Source of Acquisition

John Sampson donated this collection to Archives & Special Collections in 2005.


There is a 2001 interview available in Volume VIII of the Oral History Transcripts in Archives and Special Collections. Sampson's published books have been cataloged and shelved with the book collection of Archives & Special Collections.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Catherine N. Carson, Oleg Kushelev and Rachel Robinson.

Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the CSI Archives & Special Collections Repository